Two changes approved this week in precinct locations for the Nov. 6 general election might be the last ones Bartholomew County voters will ever have to worry about.
Columbus residents in Precinct 1600 who cast their primary ballots last spring at the former Home Federal Bank branch (now Old National Bank) on 25th Street near Taylor Road will vote in November at the Villa Apartments on Waycross Drive, west of Smith Elementary School.
Meanwhile, Hope-area voters in Precincts 4600, 4800 and 4900 also will have a new precinct location.
They will cast their ballots at the Hope Moravian Church on Main Street, instead of the Community Center of Hope on Washington Street.
“There’s not an election that goes by where I don’t run into someone who is frustrated,” said County Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz.
“They went to location A only to find out that their precinct has moved to Location B. Or they’ve moved, but have to go back to their old neighborhood to vote.”
That’s one of the reasons why county officials are considering establishing up to seven vote centers in 2014.
If approved, voters will be allowed to cast their ballots at any center they choose during the midterm election, instead of being required to go to a specific precinct.
But both Kleinhenz and Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines believe the change from precincts to vote centers is too complex to attempt it during this year’s crucial presidential election.
“There’s a step-by-step process and a time period when the public will get to comment on creating these centers,” Hines said.
“Vote centers might be a good fit for us. But in some communities, it’s not. If it’s the best thing for Bartholomew County, the election board will certainly make sure it happens.”
In 2007, state lawmakers authorized a pilot program in three counties to see how well vote centers would work in Indiana. Neighboring Johnson County switched to vote centers for the first time last May.
A 2010 study by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute showed that all 92 counties would save money with vote centers.
The study estimated that Allen County would likely reduce its Election Day costs 53 percent, saving more than $100,000.
As of last week, 514 requests for absentee ballots by mail had been received in Bartholomew County. That is 300 more than the same period during the 2008 presidential election, according to Hines.
However, the clerk wonders if a certain amount of those requests may be based on memories of long voting lines during that election.
“People certainly have more interest, but I don’t know if this interest (in absentee voting requests) simply lies in people wanting to vote in the comfort of their own homes,” Hines said.
“But I do think we are going to see a larger turnout this fall than we’ve seen in several other elections. It could even surpass the turnout we saw in 2008.”
When early voting gets under way Oct. 8 (with voter-registration deadline the following day), lines at the Bartholomew County Courthouse are expected to be shorter than in years past.
That’s because more voting machines will be set up in addition to the two that had been used in previous elections. Hines said she believes the additional machines will help get early voters in and out more quickly.
If you choose to go to the courthouse for early voting between Oct. 8 and Nov. 5, county officials remind you to enter through the doors off Third Street, rather than the main entrance off Washington Street.
“We’re trying to use electronics and our advanced systems to make voting as convenient as possible,” Kleinhenz said.
But retiring County Commissioner Paul Franke noted that convenience does nothing to address the problem of voter apathy.
“I don’t think any of this is really going to have much of an impact on turnout,” Franke said.
Hines said vote centers should at least result in lower election costs for taxpayers. Since seven centers will require far fewer poll workers than the almost 50 precincts now established throughout Bartholomew County, she said it should result in significant savings.
Want to be a precinct worker?
Election Day hours required: 5 a.m. – approximately 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Number of poll workers needed: 285 in Bartholomew County.
They are also provided $15 for meals and an additional $30 for the extra responsibilities of being the inspector.
Those responsibilities include attending a training session and picking up supplies. Inspectors are Republicans.
A Democrat judge must accompany the inspector back to the courthouse with the results. They receive an additional $10 for this responsibility plus $15 for meals.
Submitted applications will be sent to officials of both political parties for their consideration.
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